Planetfall, by Emma Newman. Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world beyond Earth offering a new existence for humanity. Twenty-two years later, the foundation of the colony she helped establish on this new planet is shaken when Lee Suh-Mi’s grandson wanders into their settlement and challenges everything they thought was true, both inside and outside the colony.
I picked up this paperback at the secondhand bookstore near my workplace, and it earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf quickly. There was something about this novel that captivated me right from page one, and kept me intrigued through the last page. Perhaps it was the realistic characters. Not only were they realistic, but all of the main characters had an air of mystery about them – like there was something deeper to discover – and this novel didn’t disappoint. Perhaps it’s because it delved into deep psychological and sociological issues, and the lengths we’ll go to in order to protect our vision of ourselves and the world as it should be. Perhaps it was the sense that there was something under the surface unfolding as the plot progressed. All I can say is that this is a captivating novel. You’ll want to pick it up with you have plenty of reading time to enjoy, because once you start reading, you won’t want to put it down.
Quantum, by Patricia Cornwell. Captain Calli Chase detects an alarm in the tunnels deep below a NASA research center on the eve of a top-secret mission. Soon after investigating this event, she’s called to investigate the crime scene of an employee tied in with the same project as the tripped alarm. The events that unfold hint at sabotage on a larger level, and lead Calli through a night that challenges everything she knows – especially about her twin sister.
Ditto all of the above, with the exception that I got the Kindle version of this novel, so I swiped pages instead of turning them. I love sci-fi and mystery, and this book is a perfect mix of both. Likewise, the characters were realistic and believable. One thing about this novel that really impressed me is that Calli has deep family ties that motivate and lead her behavior. Too many novels put the protagonist in a void by not mentioning or eliminating the family element (there are many orphans in sci-fi and fantasy), so it’s good when a writer isn’t afraid to include the family (and friend) element that most people deal with on a day-to-day basis. It makes both the characters and the actions more believable and realistic – and that’s just as important as the science and other concepts following logical, believable patterns (or at least patterns that allow you to suspend disbelief). This is another one you want to pick up when you have plenty of reading time, because you will not want to put it down.
Anti Life, by Allen Kuzara. Colonel John Alvarez is ready to leave his life of deep space missions behind, until a distress signal from a distant research probe calls him back into action. The promise of a large payout after this one last mission is enough to motivate Alvarez to dive into the fray one more time, until he realizes the big payout is due to a big threat. Soon, Alvarez learns that there are fates worse than death in the expanse of deep space.
The world building aspect of this novel is excellent. Kuzara has done an excellent job of creating a future that’s believable and interesting. What’s more, it mixes plenty of suspense with the science fiction, so you won’t see what’s coming until it hits you. There are some “information dumps” early in the novel, but they serve to give you context to character motivations for events later in the novel. In the end, this novel does a great job of addressing the classic sci-fi question of what it means to be human, while leaving you hanging for what may come next.
Murder on Tyneside, by Eileen Thorton. Recently widowed Agnes Lockwood has decided to revisit her home in Northeast England, when mystery finds her: a jewelry thief in her hotel. Soon after that, Agnes literally stumbles upon a dead body that’s potentially tied to the thefts. Soon Agnes and her old school friend, Chief Alan Johnson, are swept into an investigation that has ties far beyond this small British town.
I’m not sure if you knew that I like British mysteries, and this one stood out for me. I believe the reason is that I imagine I would be a lot like Agnes if I found myself in a situation like that. It’s easy to imagine yourself in this novel as the innocent travel that stumbles upon an adventure bigger than yourself. It’s a compelling story that’s not predictable, and has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end – and beyond!
No Way Back Today, by Eric Shoars. A talk to his sister’s high school class makes Eric realize an unrealized dream from childhood: to start a rock band. Feedback from the class encourages him to be bold and reconnect with his former classmates to see if this dream can become a reality, even if it took until they were 50 years old to do it.
I found this book charming and compelling, because it’s natural to question your life path. Although I think it’s unlikely that a 50-something rock band would catch on like this one did, it’s motivating to see a world where the stars line up and the dream works out. It's also a great reminder that all things are possible, and they can work out in the most unexpected ways. I enjoyed this tale of four middle age friends searching for meaning together through achieving a childhood dream. I also like the message that nothing is impossible, and it’s better to try and fail than to always wonder “what if?” Plus, it made me feel not so alone in the life musings and questions that I struggle with myself as life rolls on. Compared to the others on this list, this one is a good, light read that will leave you with a warm feeling inside.
See, there are some good books out there. You just have to be willing to give them a chance and to go with your gut when you read the description, instead of the reviews.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.